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History of Human Rights

"Our expectation is to foster a community of hope,
where diversity, harmony and tolerance thrive."

On February 2, 1971, the Worcester City Council established, through an Ordinance, the first Human Rights Commission. In 1975 the City of Worcester hired the first executive director of the Human Rights Commission. Since then, the Ordinance has been amended three times. In February 1991, the City Manager appointed an eleven member Human and Civil Rights Task Force which was charged with re-establishing the Human Rights Commission. Stephen M. Levinson, Eleanor Hawley, Bill Gardiner, and Shirley Wright served as Executive Directors from 1975 - 2002.

Despite civil rights and human rights legislation at the federal and state levels, discrimination still exists. Fear, misinformation, and lack of understanding about differences often lead to prejudice and discrimination. The Office of Human Rights is a catalyst to reduce prejudice and discrimination.

The Office of Human Rights serves residents who either live or work in Worcester. The goal of the office is to ensure that all residents are treated fairly and equally by eliminating bigotry, discrimination, intolerance and prejudice. There are times when members of our community face challenges to their most basic human rights: housing, employment, and access to public services. The Office of Human Rights investigates and mediates complaints, provides education and training, and delivers community forums.

As stated in the Ordinance: "It is the policy of the city to assure that every individual shall have equal access to and benefit from all public services, to protect every individual in the enjoyment and exercise of civil rights to encourage and bring about mutual understanding and respect among all individuals of the city."

"It is clear that behavior which denies equal treatment to any of our citizens as a result of their race, color, religious creed, status, sexual orientation, disability or source of income undermines civil order and deprives persons of the benefits of a free and open society. Nothing in this ordinance shall be constructed as supporting or advocating any particular religious view or lifestyle. To the contrary, it is the intention of this ordinance that all persons be treated fairly and equally and it is the expressed intent of this ordinance to bring about the elimination of prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination and the disorder occasioned thereby."

The Human Rights commission is comprised of nine (9) volunteer members appointed by the City Manager who believe that every person has the right to live in a community where human rights are protected. The Human Rights commission is dedicated to its service of safeguarding the civil liberties of all those persons who live or work in Worcester.

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